The Earliest Recoverable Language of Buddhism, Linguistic Ambiguities, and the Process of its Transmission

Buddhism Buddhism around the World Buddhist Studies Education Events History Toronto

The RELIGION GRADUATE COLLOQUIUM at the Department for the Study of Religion of the University of Toronto presents:

BRYAN LEVMAN

The Earliest Recoverable Language of Buddhism, Linguistic Ambiguities, and the Process of its Transmission

Thursday, April 25, 2013, 2.00-3.30 pm, JHB 318

Respondent: Christoph Emmrich

Abstract: We do not know the original language(s) in which the Buddha taught, but we do know that the various reflexes that have come down to us (Gandhari, Pali, etc.) are translations of an earlier, underlying lingua franca, a simplified trade or adminstrative language of northern India, where most dialect differences were removed for ease of cross-dialect communication.  This homogenized, simplified lingua franca resulted in homynyms, where the meaning was ambiguous (polysemy),  uncertain as to which word was intended, or  phonologically garbled due to the oral transmission. As the lingua franca was translated into various dialects, standardized, and committed to writing, these ambiguities, uncertainties and confusions had to be resolved, which was done either at the commentarial level, or in the target dialect itself, by back-translations into Sanskrit, a language which was becoming increasingly used for pan-Indic communication in the early centuries B.C.E.

Bio: Bryan Levman received his B.A. in English Language and Literature from U of T in 1969, afterwards pursuing a career in Communications & Marketing. He went back to school in 1991, receiving an MSc. (Geology) in 2001 from U of T. Since then he has been studying Buddhism, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Pali and Classical Chinese, pursuing his interest in isolating Buddha?s earliest teachings and studying the transmission process, through Comparative Philology and other means. Bryan is currently a PhD candidate in his fourth year of the graduate program and instructor for Intermediate Sanskrit in the Department for the Study of Religion,  and instructor for  Advanced Topics in Buddhism in the Department of Historical Studies (UTM).

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Christoph Emmrich
Assistant Professor, Buddhist Studies
Chair, Numata Program UofT/McMaster
University of Toronto, UTM

http://www.religion.utoronto.ca/people/faculty/christoph-emmrich/

Department of Historical Studies
University of Toronto, Mississauga
Room NE117, North Building, 3359 Mississauga Road North
Mississauga, ON, L5L 1C6, Canada
+905.569.4493 (o), +905.569.4412 (f)

Department for the Study of Religion
University of Toronto, 170 St. George Street
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 303
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2M8, Canada
+416.978.6463 (o), +416.978.1610 (f)

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